In February, TLC premiered a one-hour special called Brother Husbands, which was kind of like the hipper, liberal side of Sister Wives. It followed a polyamorous trio, Amanda, Jeremy and Chad, as they navigated life with their five kids (which include triplet baby girls). We were hoping for the special to launch into a series, but it turns out that TLC passed, leaving us with less of a chance to keep in touch with the Stone family.
We chatted with Amanda Liston about how they’ve taken the news about losing their chance to share their family’s story on TLC, how everyone in the family is doing generally and what they plan to do next.
SheKnows: We are so bummed to hear about the TLC deal. How you are feeling?
Amanda Liston: We were surprised because we got really good feedback both from people online and from the producers themselves. We are also really disappointed. We have been doing our best to weigh the pros and cons of the news, so it doesn’t take too much of our happiness. I’m trying to remind myself of all things that I will get without the show, like privacy and things like that. But it’s a very small comfort compared with the opportunities that would have come with the show.
TLC was the second network that wanted the series. Before TLC, we produced a pilot for another network that passed, so we’re kind of spent. We’re all feeling pretty done. If we do anything, we’d do something that we have more control over, like something on YouTube or Vimeo. We’ve been passed around and told what to do for over a year, so we’re a little bitter at the moment. We’d be reluctant to do the whole process all over again.
SK: Let’s switch gears. What is it like to have five kids, including triplets?
AL: It’s so crazy and getting crazier every day. The last time you saw the girls, they were just starting to sit up, but now they are walking around and starting to talk and getting into trouble of their own. When they were newborns, people said “it must be so difficult” and “how did you sleep?” but in now it’s much more difficult. When they are awake and not in their cribs, they need an eye on them constantly. The boys are so helpful and they are doing so well in school. They totally have blossomed in their second semester. They are all reading, which is my favorite hobby, and we’ve been reading together as a family, which has been wonderful.
SK: As the boys get older, are they having more trouble with questions about their family at school?
AL: Their friends don’t really ask questions, so they haven’t had a lot of questions to pass along to us. Having three little sisters steers the conversation away from us, even with their parents. Everyone want to hear about the triplets and their parents are not front and center. Also, the school that they go to, we are right next to LA, so the area is very diverse and there are students from all different parts of the world and parts of life. I was just at their awards ceremony and it’s not like they go to the Stepford Elementary School; they are in a diverse area, which we did on purpose. It’s not something that affects them and their friendships. We want them to be who they are and not in the shadow of their parents.
SK: We saw in the special how Chad’s family took the news of his poly relationship. How has your family responded?
AL: I come from a military family of few words and reserved emotions. So when I told them, there was a lot of confusion, stilted conversation and fear to even ask questions. The benefit is that my family is low drama; there were no banishments from the family or admonishment. My mom was worried that things wouldn’t work out and I would get hurt — just normal motherly concerns. It wasn’t anything dramatic or painful.
We had that initial awkward conversation, then there was the slow acceptance of Jeremy into the family. Then they were overjoyed by the girls and the family as a whole. Knowing that my family are conservative red-state people, it’s the best reaction I could have hoped for. I feel really lucky.
SK: What’s the best part about having two husbands?
AL: It’s definitely having so much support at home. Our arrangement is what allows me to do the work that I do. It would be nearly impossible for me to work full time and still be able to care for five kids. With one spouse, it would be on one person all the time to get the boys from school, to have dinner ready, to keep the house together. Chad can give Jeremy a break from the girls. Jeremy can pick the boys up from school; they can swap dinner duty. It’s a very flexible give and take, and we do whatever’s best for everybody. I really think we need all three cogs in the machine.
SK: When is your arrangement the hardest?
AL: The hardest is just having seven people that rely on me in one form or another, either in an intimate adult way or in a parent-child relationship. It’s impossible to meet everyone’s needs. It comes down to me asking, “What do you want and what do you need? What can I realistically do for you?” I probably make more decisions about whose needs to meet next than the average person does. But I wouldn’t change anything. The boys are great big brothers, and it is amazing having three female personalities growing up in the house at the same time. It can be difficult to do it all, as they say, and have a career and be the breadwinner. I think that’s hard for anyone.
SK: Would you recommend your arrangement to other women?
AL: I would. I’m quoting a book on polyamory when I say this: “It’s not for everyone, but monogamy isn’t for everyone, either.” Most ancient civilizations were not monogamous, but for the most part the narrative today is monogamy. I think that only having that narrative could be the reason that so many relationships end in exhaustion and divorce. Maybe if we changed the narrative and had less expectations about what relationships have to look like in order to be healthy, we’d have better outcomes. Maybe you can stay married and still be the primary role in your child’s life and have other relationship and be OK.
I really wanted the show to be a platform for discussion. If anything, I just want people to figure out what’s best for them and have the courage to do it. I was hoping the show would be a model for that.
SK: Have you heard from other families since the special aired?
AL: I’ve gotten a lot of messages from out poly families, which is great, but I’ve also gotten messages from people who have been private about their polyamory and who now have more confidence to maybe come out of the closet. It gives me comfort that I’m not crazy and that we aren’t the only people. It makes me excited that other people are challenging the narrative and challenging the norm. I hoped the show would bring more of those people together.
SK: Describe being in love with two different people.
AL: It’s difficult to explain because it doesn’t feel particularly novel to me. I think that it’s similar to how you have different friends that fill different needs for you. You might have one friend that you call for a good time, to go out and to forget about stress. Then you have a friend who is a friend who is great to be with you in quiet times. Everyone has people who fulfill different roles for them. It’s the fact that Chad and Jeremy are so different that makes this work. I just get the best of both worlds. And so do the kids. It provides a really great opportunity for them to get a lot of love too.
SK: What do you do when Chad and Jeremy fight with each other?
AL: It totally depends. Getting involved is not something I relish doing. I’m not anti-confrontation, but I’m a smoother by nature. But I know that smoothing isn’t a role that I can put myself in all the time. We make most decisions together, all three of us. So if it’s the family budget or how we go on vacation, we are all part of the discussion. But if it’s a conflict about who is picking up the kids or if I’m at work, I leave it to them. Like if Jeremy is in a mood where he needs space, he needs to ask Chad for it and I’m not going to do that for him.
SK: How do you deal with jealousy?
AL: Jealousy is just like any other emotion. It’s passing and something you don’t feel it all the time. Feelings aren’t facts. Feelings are changeable and finite and fallible. Jealousy is something that you can let pass over you and wash over you. It doesn’t mean you never speak up or ask for help; but because it can be such a strong emotion, it can feel like you have to fix it when you don’t have to.
You are in control of your own feelings. We put jealousy on a short leash and don’t give a lot of control or power to it. The goal is for jealousy to become a small companion that takes up a small amount of your life.
If you make decisions out of a place of jealousy, they aren’t good decisions. You can’t think, “You have to spend this time with me because you spent time with him,” or “You did that with him but not with me.” You can say instead, “I miss you and I want to take you to the movies this weekend.” Instead of coming from a negative place of jealousy, it’s now something positive. It’s about changing the narrative. Jealousy doesn’t have to be toxic. It can just be a signal: I probably miss her.